Ignorance of ‘The Law’ is No Excuse

It’s been more than 150 years since the time of Frederic Bastiat, and yet our society fails to understand the ideas he promoted to his fellow citizens of France in 1850. Even before law itself, as Bastiat said, there were three major rights of an individual; Life, Liberty and Property. For Bastiat, law is no more that the collective organization of the individuals’ right to lawful defense. And therefore it cannot have any other purpose other than the protection of the Life, Liberty and Property of individuals or groups. This way, laws would maintain the right of each, and will cause peace to reign over us all.

Today we are so used to the concept of infinite laws controlling and interfering every aspect of the society, that the simple idea here presented is almost unimaginable for the people. But let’s for a second imagine a weaker government, a state that has the sole responsibility of rights protection, and in which every success will only be obtained thanks to individuals´ effort and no blaming will ever be given to authorities. Such a government will certainly represent no ambition to political parties, since it will no control the population. And privileges, centralized power, manual wealth distribution, taxation and even corruption will be out of the table. With all these most of the responsibility expected from states will also disappear.

“Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?” (Bastiat)

Law is power, but it doesn’t confine to its proper function. Law makers utilize laws to force people into what they believe is the best, based on their point of view commonly influenced by the majority of the population. Regardless of their capability or intention one thing is undeniably true. The assumption that people don’t know what they want and that a group of superior leaders with the ability to create laws is needed to guide us, had destroyed Human Liberty.

“When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it, to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed. I say that this act is exactly what the law is supposed to suppress, always and everywhere. When the law itself commits this act that it is supposed to suppress, I say that plunder is still committed” (Bastiat)

Law does not change the nature of the action applied in the name of justice or equality, it does not make something legit or honest. Even when the law allows an action to be done by a group of people, the morality must be questioned. And if a deeper analysis is made, it will probably show that many laws are harmful to us all. It is true that I strongly agree with Mr. Bastiat ideas. However, the objective of this article is not only to encourage the reader to read the most well-known writings of Bastiat, but also to analyze the consequence and cost of the ignorance in our society. Every year, more and more resources around the world are spent on political campaigns, due to the belief that more laws and a new political figure will solve our problems. Many millions are also spent on social programs, which in most cases do not achieve the expected results.

“Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter into the making of laws.” (Bastiat)

To see this issue in a more practical scenario we can assume that anyone that understand the basic concepts of Investing will know the meaning of ROI (return on investment). And will be able to see that any type of investing must have a valid return in order to encourage people to Invest. When it comes to governments, becoming a Lawmaker can bring many returns and therefore there are thousands of people pursuing privileges. This is the best proof that the vast majority of the people all over the world may look for a way into legal plunder, and that the people benefited from those policies will be glad to continue this vicious cycle.
In conclusion, we should doubt everything. At the end of the day this is a system created and controlled by a group of humans. More than the acceptance of Bastiat principles, I will encourage you to think and analyze every aspect within the governments.

Perhaps the problem is in our own human nature. Trying to create an advantage for a selected group in the easiest way possible, instead of competing in a market, respond to the theory of Pain and Pleasure (deeply discussed by some philosophers in the past). If so, this problem might best be addressed to other sciences; or we, students of economics, will need to focus on philosophy, psychology or praxeology, as it was done by a real economist such as Bastiat. Meanwhile, I have no doubt that a day will come in which an incorruptible system will win the competition against all others defective systems. And people will finally understand the importance of freedom from a practical experience rather than from a theoretical point. Until that day arrives, ask no more than what you need. Ask for Freedom.

[1] http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html

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